Retro Re-release Roundup, week of May 2, 2024

Taito's classic barbarian romp hits Arcade Archives.

I often wonder why Rastan Saga, the tightly-designed, aesthetcally-confident action game that spawned a zillion ports in its day, hasn't inherited a more prominent legacy among the greats of the late-'80s arcade action pantheon... and then I remember Rastan Saga 2, and I do my best to move on.


Rastan Saga

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
  • Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
  • Publisher: Hamster / Taito

What's this?  A macho fantasy action game, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Taito in 1987 and quickly followed by a slew of ports for various global computers which include the Apple II IGS, PC, MSX2 and Commodore 64, as well as the Sega Master System and Game Gear, with later emulated reissues via many of Taito's mid-'00s game compilations, the Nesica arcade network and the recent Egret II Mini. Players guide the barbarian Rastan on a quest to claim the riches of a certain kingdom by liberating it from the subjugation of a mighty dragon, which necessarily requires one to navigate dangerous and sometimes sprawling stages, collect a variety of weapon, armor and item powerups and swing their sword as fast as humanly possible without breakng their stride.

Why should I care? You want to experience or revisit a minor classic of the sidescrolling arcade-action genre that offers a conventional but thoroughly-constructed challenge with a handful of unique and fun wrinkles, with a methodical balance that feels more akin to a tougher console game than some of its arcade contemporaries. You might also be familiar with Conan the Barbarian!

Helpful tip: Aerial attacks do double damage, so you really want to try to hit things while airborne whenever possible, particularly bosses. 


Cyber Citizen Shockman 3: The Princess for Another World

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox (worldwide)
  • Price: $5.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Ratalaika Games

What's this? The third entry in Masaya's mostly-Japan-exclusive Kaizou Chounin Shubibinman series of "henshin hero" co-op action games, originally developed and published for the PC Engine CD in 1992 and officially localized here for the first time. Ratalaika's suite of enhancements include save states, rewind/fast-forward, shaders, button mapping, a gallery of manual scans and other material and a cheats menu, which includes immediate unlocks for certain modes and content that traditionally required the player to first clear the game.

Why should I care? On paper, Shockman 3 is the grand culmination of the series: the presentation and production has improved by leaps and bounds, partly due to the jump to CD format but also through a generally higher level of technical expertise, and both the tone and the particular style of action have pivoted back to that of the first game, rather than the somewhat divisive, more Mega Man-esque sequel. On a moment-to-moment level, the many rough edges of the previous games have been so aggressively sanded off as to render the game completely without bite

Helpful tip: The in-game unlockable bonus menu is filled with digitized fan art and other material sourced from a certain PC Engine magazine, as well as Masaya's old fan newsletter, and if you hear any conspicuous beeps, those are censored names, titles and/or names of people or organizations they're no longer cleared to mention.

Front Mission 2 Remake

  • Platform: PlayStation 4/5, Xbox, PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $34.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Forever Entertainment

What's this? A remake of the second game in Square-Enix's mecha-focused tactical military strategy-RPG series, Front Mission, which was originally released for the PlayStation in 1997, exclusively in Japan, with the remake released globally on Switch roughly six months ago; this remake represents the first official localized release of the game and, in addition to newly-modeled 3D visuals, offers additional difficulty settings, the option to use either the original music or remastered tunes, an option for free camera movement, reduced load times, faster battle animations and more.

Why should I care? I don't know whether this remake broke Forever's streak of mediocrity, nor am I personally willing to keep giving them money just to find out, but I do know that the original Front Mission 2 was a a glacial game that virtually demanded a new version with reduced load times, and a game that layered systems on top of systems and was essentially unplayable without a translation, so if these remake meets the basic standard of "old game, but quicker and readable in languages other than Japanese" then I suppose it's worth your time. (I do know they've made significant changes to both the English and Japanese scripts since the original Switch release, which was suspected to be machine-translated...)

Helpful tip: I can't speak to the console releases but the PC build seems to currently be plagued with problems linked to the game's upped framerate, which suggest the game's optimized for 30FPS and that fixes for higher framerates may not be trivial.

TriggerHeart Exelica

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $29.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Cosmo Machia

What's this? A new port of Warashi's vertically-scrolling mecha-girl shooting game, originally released in arcades by the now-defunct Warashi in 2006 and ported to Dreamcast in 2007, with a subsequen enhanced port to PlayStation 2 by the also-defunct Alchemist in 2008 and a recently-delisted, Microsoft-published Xbox Live Arcade port for Xbox 360 in the same year, as well as a feature phone adaptation; these new ports were crowdfunded by Warashi successor studio Cosmo Machia last year and merge the content and elements of the Dreamcast and X360 versions (which include additional story, arrange and training modes and extra options, as well as HD-compliant display and online leaderboards) and newly add more training options and quick start, extra screen wallpapers. multiple soundtrack options and vertical handheld support on Switch.

Why should I care? This game found surprising success beyond typical shooting game circles in Japan, due to a one-two punch of being one of the games jostling for the title of "final Dreamcast game" and receiving a popular run of merch based on the "mecha-musume" characters, but that doesn't mean the game's without value to the Dreamcast-less, figure-free folk of 2024: the game's unique "anchor beam" system, which allows the player to tether enemies that they can then swing around to block bullets or fling at other enemies, offers a physics-y twist on what mght otherwise seem like a conventional bullet hell game, and the difficulty settings scale well across the various modes in way that should allow even bullet hell players to continously make progress and reach new plateaus.

Useless fact: Cosmo Machia claims the recent delisting of the X360 version had nothing to do with this new port and was simply a consequence of the expiration of the old Microsoft/Warashi publishing deal, and that they're considering reinstating the game on Xbox... but, given the price differential between the two versons, I wouldn't count on it coming back.


Arcade Archives Libble Rabble (PS4, Switch) update

Out of nowhere, Hamster's patched Libble Rabble to add a few fanservice-y extras: the in-app manual now includes scans of the "Basishi Book", a Libble Rabble handbook given out at Namco-managed arcades during the game's heyday, as well as a translated karaoke page featuring the official lyrics to one of the game's tunes, as well as a recording of an obscure official vocal recording originally produced for a radio advertisement. I don't know why they're adding all this stuff now, but who's complaining?


Apotris (Game Boy Advance and beyond) ver.4.0 release

The low-spec, full-fat block-dropper of the moment has received a massive new update that adds several new mode, support for replays and the GBA Wireless Adapter for multiplayer, a new UI and loads of options and fixes... but, most notably, it has also been ported (that is, natively ported, not emulated) to Windows, Mac, Linux, browser, Nintendo Switch and the Steam Deck packer PortMaster. May they evade the ire of The Falling Block Company forevermore.